The power of 'and'

21 May, 2019 Share socially

Brand marketers love to categorise and profile consumers through use of models that promote the value of doing so. Conceptually, it is valuable, but do we sometimes risk creating personas of people that don't actually exist? If so, how can brands ensure that they connect to their audiences – their real customers?

In the process of developing the profile of your customer, the aim is to think deeply about your audience — what their motivations are, their fears, their challenges — so you can create better brand and marketing messages. However, humans have a great ability to generalize from a single observation that is often binary in nature. Branding is not an exception and therefore consumers often become unchanging personas in the eyes of a marketeer. The problem with this is that it is superficial – most customer personas simply record what you already know about your customer and if you oversimplify your customer, you ignore their complex, contradictory and ever-changing behaviour.

So what if tomorrow's branding was about being interested in people's ambivalences, paradoxes, contradictions? Let’s stop forcing consumers to choose but rather help them embrace their contrariness.

We’ve observed 3 simple contradictory trends and identified some examples of brands which are giving consumers the best of both worlds.

#1. Collective ego-trip

With 1000 selfies being taken every second around the world we are undoubtedly becoming increasingly focused on ourselves, but this apparent egotism does not prevent us from also being committed to helping others and seeking to make a better society. For example 60.7% of French people are engaged in sustainable consumption and lifestyle whilst in the USA consumers are putting their dollars where their values are, spending a staggering $128.5 billion on sustainable FMCG products last year.

Grow, a fintech company, allows investors to make sure their savings are monetised whilst having a positive impact on society. How? The app gives the opportunity to choose your investments ethically in accordance with the user’s principles and values making it possible to act in your own interests and, at the same time, invest in a sustainable society.

#2. Controlled freedom

We live in tumultuous times both politically and economically and, as a result, our desire for stability and to control everything within our own realm of influence has never been higher however this is at odds with an apparent collective need for freedom and spontaneity. 67% of consumers say they are permanently conscious of the need to identify and manage risks they can face in their daily life. However, in 2020, 50% of workers in America will be freelancers, the gig economy is on the rise and less people can afford to or indeed want to be shackled by their belongings so there has been a move away from house and car ownership.

Closet offers a subscription to clothing rental services: a way for shopping addicts to satisfy their urge for novelty, while taking control over it. It makes it possible to add clothes to your wishlist at any moment, but you cannot hire a new outfit without sending back the one you previously took out.

#3. 2.0 essence

According to Le Monde "Every year, millions of young French graduates are disappointed by the working world, and they choose to move towards craftmanship jobs". Simultaneously, we are embracing modernity and all that it has to offer with glossy, life enhancing products and services available to us at the push of a smartphone button. Any shift back to artisan craftmanship is juxtaposed with technological innovations that will keep representing an important part of investment and consumption.

“The greatest dilemma faced by the modern artisan craftsman is the machine,” argued Richard Sennett in his influential 2009 book The Craftsman. “Is it a friendly tool or an enemy replacing work of the human hand?”. Many companies are making the case for technology as a positive force for consumers – it is now estimated that the connected objects market will be worth 60 billion euros in 2020.

Brands are starting to successfully balance the artisanal while capitalising on technical advancements. One such company is the Thélios eyewear factory, a joint venture between French luxury goods group LVMH and Italian eyewear manufacturer Marcolin. Pencil drawings by fashion designers such as Hedi Slimane from Celine are recreated by technical designers and printed on 3D printers before a cluster of artisans take over, hand-buffing prototypes to a high shine. It takes less than two hours to produce a physical product from a designer’s drawing.

Futureproof brands will be the ones that understand that the time we said "or" or "yes, but" has ended, and that we are now at the time of "and". It is a semantic shift but a huge one that will allow brands to build a positive future and make consumption meaningful again.